5 said killed in airstrikes on pro-Iranian militias in eastern Syria
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5 said killed in airstrikes on pro-Iranian militias in eastern Syria

Monitor reports back-to-back attacks on Hezbollah, Shiite groups near Iraqi border, where Israel has allegedly conducted a number of strikes

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

A screengrab circulating on social media purporting to show an alleged Israeli airstrike targeting Iranian assets in the Syrian city of Masyaf on April 13, 2019. (Screengrab/Twitter)
Illustrative. A screengrab circulating on social media purporting to show an alleged Israeli airstrike targeting Iranian assets in the Syrian city of Masyaf on April 13, 2019. (Screengrab/Twitter)

At least five pro-Iranian militants were killed in strikes by unidentified aircraft in eastern Syria on Wednesday night, a Syria war monitor reported.

According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the airstrikes were conducted over the course of several hours on Wednesday night in the Boukamal region of Syria, near the Iraqi border, an area that has seen a number of attacks on Iran-backed groups attributed to Israel.

The Wednesday airstrikes reportedly targeted a Hezbollah command center, as well as several pro-Iranian militia sites in eastern Syria.

“Missiles of unidentified origin targeted the headquarters of the 47th Brigade of pro-Iranian militias in the town of Boukamal, in the east of Deir Ezzor province, killing five fighters,” the Observatory said.

As a rule, Israel does not comment on specific airstrikes in Syria, save for those that are in retaliation to attacks on Israel from Syrian territory.

Earlier on Wednesday, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi said Israel was working to thwart Iran’s efforts to establish a permanent military presence in Syria and Iraq, and was prepared to risk a war in order to do so.

Wednesday’s attack came days after a series of missile strikes targeted Iran-linked sites around the Syrian capital, killing at least three foreign pro-regime fighters, believed to be Iranians.

According to the monitor, there were three explosions in the Damascus suburbs on Sunday night after the missiles targeted “Syrian regime and Iranian positions.” Lebanon’s Al Akhbar newspaper reported that the strikes, which were attributed to Israel, had targeted arms warehouses in the suburb of Sayyidah Zaynab south of Damascus.

Two weeks ago unidentified aircraft bombed three Iranian-controlled weapons depots, killing several members of Tehran-supported militias, Syrian media reported at the time. Those airstrikes targeted three munitions storehouses in the Boukamal region. There were no immediate reports of who was responsible for the strikes, though defense analysts indicated that Israel was the likely actor.

Five pro-Iranian fighters were killed in these strikes in Boukamal on December 8, the Observatory said.

Israel has repeatedly said that it will not accept Iranian military entrenchment in Syria and that it will retaliate for any attack on the Jewish state from Syria. Though it does not generally comment on specific attacks, Israel has admitted to carrying out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against Iranian targets over the last several years. Iran has forces based in Syria, Israel’s northern neighbor, and supports the Hezbollah terror group and Gaza terrorists.

Last month, Israel said it struck dozens of Iranian targets in Syria in a “wide-scale” operation in response to rocket fire on the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights the day before.

Earlier in November, Israel killed a senior commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an Iran-backed group in the Gaza Strip, setting off two days of heavy fighting. A separate airstrike targeted but failed to kill an Islamic Jihad leader in Damascus, underscoring the risk of escalation at various pressure points across the volatile region.

Times of Israel staff and Agencies contributed to this report.

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